Moving countries can be a life-changing experience. It involves learning a new culture, trying out new cuisines, and also learning a new language. For us and our children, one of the main challenges when moving to Germany was the different foods available in German supermarkets. Back in the UK, we used to love proper British bacon, so did the bairns; however, when we came to Germany, it was almost impossible to find English bacon because it’s not normally available in supermarkets, and the few online stores that offered it were often out of stock and or just sold frozen, low-quality versions that we did not want to feed to our children.
The “bacon” available in German supermarkets is a poor substitute for what we were used to from home: it lacks the authentic taste, is usually far too thin and almost always streaky – not what we want! Whilst usually we would bring large batches of British bacon back to Germany whenever we visited the UK, thanks to Brexit this is no longer possible. As we were missing proper bacon dearly, we decided to take bacon matters into our own hands and start producing proper authentic British bacon here in Germany, and to make it available to all our fellow expats. As British/English bacon is almost totally unknown to German butchers, we first had to make them understand the bacon basics in terms of its history, the different types, and the methods used to create it. If you are interested, please find all the information within this article.
The many different types of bacon
Bacon comes in a huge variety of different shapes and forms: British bacon, American streaky bacon, Canadian bacon, German Frühstückspeck, Tuscan lardo or the infamous guanciale made from pork cheeks, to name but a few. Let’s have a look at a few different types of bacon and curing methods to understand their similarities and differences.
British bacon, also known as back bacon, is usually cut from the pork loin and often has a small flap of pork belly attached to it. Generally, it is a leaner cut, with a higher meat-to-fat ratio. Without the flap of belly, it is sometimes known as bacon medallions. This kind of bacon is a staple in British cuisine and a must-have on a proper “fry-up” (cooked breakfast).
American streaky bacon/Frühstücksspeck
American bacon, also called streaky bacon, is the most common kind of bacon and can easily be found in German stores. Streaky bacon is cut from the pork belly and has a higher fat-to- meat ratio than British bacon. It is almost synonymous with German Frühstücksspeck (breakfast bacon), and often cut wafer-thin and fried until super crispy.
Canadian bacon is cut from the pork loin and very similar to British bacon medallions. This kind of bacon is leaner than American and English bacon, and can be similar in texture and flavour to a cured ham.
Tuscan lardo is pure white back fat that is salted and spiced and cures in special marble throughs for several months. The finished lardo is cut wafer-thin and served on bread, pizza or enjoyed just on its own.
Guanciale is an air-dried, unsmoked Italian bacon made from pork cheeks. It is the traditional bacon used for authentic Italian spaghetti alla carbonara, but we find that authentic smoked British bacon works just as well!
Generally, bacon is always made by rubbing (curing) salt onto more or less fatty pieces of meat and letting them cure for some time. The salt is absorbed by the meat, preserves it and totally changes the texture and flavour. Depending on the type of bacon and personal preference, it is then sometimes smoked or rubbed in spices. Instead of just salt, sugar or sugary syrups can also be used for curing, and modern industrial bacon is often made by injecting a brine directly into the meat.
Dry-curing is the most traditional preservation method used in bacon making whereby you rub ingredients (salt, spices) on the meat exterior and allow it to absorb the (curing) salt and flavours for a long time. This method does not use water and creates a firm bacon with a deep, meaty flavour.
Wet-curing involves the use of salt, water, and other ingredients to make a brine in which the meat is submerged. As it takes a long time for the moisture to permeate the meat, industrial bacon is often made by directly injecting the brine into the flesh. The cures the bacon much quicker, and pumping the meat full of water means the industry can sell less bacon for more money. Needless to say, we don’t do any of that to our bacon!
Sweet-curing is also a type of dry cure to uses both (curing) salt and sugar (or sugary syrups such as maple syrup or honey) to preserve the meat. Sweet-curing is particularly popular in the South of England and in some parts of the USA, but the taste is not for everyone.
History of British Bacon
British bacon dates back to the 14th century in the Saxon Era, when cured, salted meats were known as bacoun. Bacoun was used to refer to the traditional cut of the pork meat in those days. The term developed from bacoun to bacon during the later middle ages. Originally, bacon was cut from the pork loins and pork belly. In other countries such as Germany, it was known as bahko and baken in the Old Dutch.
In Saxon times, bacon was usually made by local farmers in the country side and then brought to town to be sold in shops and on the market. Before the 19th century, local farmers often secretly bred pigs in their basements, as there were laws preventing them from producing and selling their own commercial products.
With the rise of the Industrial Revolution, farming and food production also underwent a drastic change. For the first time, bacon was produced on an industrial scale and suddenly readily available to the wider public, where it found its way onto the breakfast plates up and down the country. Bacon is now as popular as ever and a staple of British cuisine.
The long-lasting British military presence in Germany after World War II has resulted in hundreds of thousands of British expats still living in Germany to this day. Whilst German food is generally popular amongst Brits, finding good bacon and getting that authentic taste from home has become a challenge for many of us. In recent years, this has been significantly complicated by Brexit.
How Has Brexit Affected the Bacon Industry?
Brexit has had a significant impact on the British bacon industry and its availability in Germany. Strict regulations on importing and exporting food, and particularly raw meats, have resulted in an almost complete stop of transborder bacon trade between the continent and the UK. In Britain, this is problematic as vast amounts of supermarket bacon are actually produced in the Netherlands and Denmark (hence the common term “Danish bacon”) and can now no longer be imported. In return, retailers in Germany can no longer import bacon from Britain, and even private citizens travelling from the UK to Germany are no longer allowed to carry their own, personal supply of fresh meat products.
With a complete lack of bacon coming in, the British expat community in Germany became increasingly hungry for a proper taste from home. This is when we decided to take bacon matters into our own hands and establish Geordie’s, to provide authentic, dry-cured, butcher quality smoked and unsmoked British bacon, made in Germany and delivered directly to your home.